Lemon Tea Bread Recipe

This is always a nice one to have in your repertoire. I do these en masse because they make great giveaways and are always appreciated — a nice light and citrus-y alternative to heavier holiday fruitcakes or intense chocolate treats. This recipe makes two large 9″ x 5″ loaves, but you can scale it up as you like. I usually double this, because then I can make 5 smaller 1-pound (or so) loaves with it.

14 (2 cups) ounces sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter
3 eggs
15 ounces (3 cups) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lemon
8 ounces (1 cup) buttermilk
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With the mixer on medium-low add eggs one at a time until all are incorporated. Combine the dry ingredients including the zest in a separate bowl and whisk to blend them. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the mixer and stir on low until until there are only a few streaks of flour visible, then add half the buttermilk. Scrape, then add another third of the dry ingredients and so on until everything is incorporated. Finally fold in the lemon juice. Divide the dough between your pans (for 1 pound loaf pans use 1 pound 2 ounces of batter per pan). Bake the breads about 50 minutes until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

12 thoughts on “Lemon Tea Bread Recipe”

  1. Can you explain that 1 tsp baking powder? With the quantities of flour and sugar, as well as the buttermilk and lemon juice, I would have expected more leavening here. I need (another) science lesson!

    1. Hey Chana! It’s simple: it’s all that creamed butter and sugar. Like pound cake batter, this has nearly all the bubbles it needs after the mixing step. That last bit of baking powder just gives it a touch more oomph.

      – Joe

    1. Hey Janelle!

      Believe it or not, all that extra acid can cause curds to form in the buttermilk. The nice thing about folding it in late…at least for me…is that it gives me an excuse to do a very thorough a final scraping!


      – Joe

  2. What about a substitution of buttermilk with one of my favorite ingredients — dried buttermilk. I’d guess same results but am I guessing right?

    Good timing on this recipe. The tree is loaded with Meyer lemons and I’ll looking for something just a bit different from my existing options

    1. You can indeed use dried buttermilk, Brian. Let me know how it goes!

      – Joe

  3. Hi Joe,
    Why baking powder instead of baking soda with all that acid?
    Is this the one that you can add poppy seeds to?

    1. Hi Melinda!

      I think the purpose is to leave the acid unreacted so it can add tenderness and tang to the cake.

      And yes you can certainly add poppy seeds if you like! Up to a quarter cup depending on how poppy-seedy you like it.


      – Joe

  4. I made this–it’s a great recipe, the tea bread came out beautiful, and it’s extremely moist and delicious. Thanks. As an aside, I used the dried buttermilk, I mixed the buttermilk powder in with the flour, and then used one cup water as the liquid equivalent.

    1. Hey Joe!

      Thanks for getting back to me on this. Very glad it worked so well for you. Glad to know that dried buttermilk also works well here. Cheers and happy New Year!

      – Joe

  5. I did this one gluten free in small bundtlette pans and added a tart glaze while they were still warm. Not sure how they tasted but they were very pretty. Thanks for the recipe.

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